Vice Director of the local Schenectday Chapter Therapy Dogs International
Scribe: Beth Brownell Editor: Beth Brownell
Kris Cameron, known to many people as the owner of BH Optical, visited the club with her therapy dog Roxie. The Schenectady chapter encompasses the Capital Region up to Plattsburgh, out to Oneonta and down to Catskill. There are approximately 200 volunteer members who visit 80 facilities a year. It is a wholly volunteer driven program and there is no cost to those who receive visits. They do not accept donations and run their program by a small fees paid by the volunteers every three years. 95% of requests for a visit are filled and when a request cannot be filled, it is due to lack of an available volunteer. Therapy dogs share and give comfort, as opposed to service aid dogs which are trained in specific tasks. People respond to the love a dog can give, which is unconditional and nonjudgmental. Kris mentioned that the volunteers feel better after bringing their dogs for a visit, due to all the help and happiness they see the dogs provide. Therapy dogs go to community events, participate in parades. Recently there has been an increase in visits to colleges around exam time, to comfort student who miss their own dogs, and to work places, to aid in stress reduction. Tail Waggin’ Tutors are dogs that sit with children who practice reading aloud or who otherwise need extra attention. Dogs also give stress relief to those in the midst of disasters providing comfort to families and responders.
Kris outlined the testing that a dog and its handler have to go through and the traits that make a good therapy dog. Dogs come in all sizes and are purebred or mutt. Ability to obey around lots of people and children as well as their ability to focus on their handler and not be distracted by what is going on around them are traits that make a good therapy dog.